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Saturday, January 1, 2011

LOVE ON THE RUN (1936)

Joan Crawford is the rich girl/runaway bride who gets chased all over Europe by rival newsmen Clark Gable & Franchot Tone in this glamorous mix of screwball & spies. Along the way, Gable falls for her while Tone threatens to reveal his real vocation. Meanwhile, in the subplot, a monocled Reginald Owen turns out to be an international spy with an on-and-off Ruritanian accent and a top-secret document. Under ‘Woody’ Van Dyke’s careless helming, the film is more hectic than fun while the intrigue is just too illogical to generate any suspense. (Someone @ M-G-M - producer Joseph Mankiewicz? – had definitely seen Hitchcock’s THE 39 STEPS/’35.) Looking tall & trim, and with his mustache back in place after MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY/’35, Gable gracefully finesses a lot of second-rate gags while Tone, also fresh from the BOUNTY and just married to Crawford, gets stuck playing second-banana. But the real problem is that he’s been encouraged to ham up his gags. One throwaway spot involving frogs is a real head-scratcher. Crawford seems relaxed, for Crawford, and her face still has some ‘give’ to it, but as an actress she was always at a loss when she wasn’t playing a working-girl trying hard to move up. Here, especially in the screwball heavy first half, she makes like Carole Lombard and hopes for the best. Gable took the hint and married Lombard two years later.

CONTEST: They really did study THE 39 STEPS before making this one. They even stole a very specific tell-tale gag . . . which is then uselessly thrown away. Spot that gag in both pics to win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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